Sunday, January 13, 2008

Housing is a Human Right

In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein includes a chapter about New Orleans. After examining the mismanagement of disaster relief work, that the government outsourced to private contractors (using tax payers' money, if that's not clear), Klein writes

"The attacks on the disadvantaged, carried out in the name of reconstruction and relief, did not stop there. In order to offset the tens of billions going to to private companies in contracts and tax breaks, in November 2005 the Republican-controlled Congress announced that it needed to cut $40 billion from the federal budget. Among the programs that were slashed were student loans, Medicaid and food stamps. In other words, the poorest cities in the country subsidized the contractor bonanza twice---first when Katrina relief morphed into unregulated corporate handouts, providing neither decent jobs nor functional public services, and second when the few programs that directly assisted the unemployed and working poor nationwide were gutted to pay those bloated bills."

She goes on to write about the lack of progress in New Orleans, two years after Katrina hit. She writes,
"The vast majority of publicly owned housing projects stood boarded up and empty, with five thousand units slotted for the demolition by the federal housing authority...New Orleans' powerful tourism lobby had been eyeing the house projects, several of them on prime land close to the French Quarter.
Endesha Juakali helped set up a protest camp outside on of the boarded-up projects, St. Bernard Public Housing, explaining, 'they've had an agenda for St. Bernard for a long time, but as long as people lived here, they couldn't do it. So they used the disaster as a way of cleansing the neighborhood when the neighborhood is weakest...This is a great location for bigger houses and condos. The only problem is you got all these poor black people sitting on it!'"

As I read Klein's chapter on New Orleans, I was reminded of something that I had read on La Chola's blog before I went on vacation for the holidays. She has several posts on the Public Housing advocates protesting the New Orleans City Council meeting convened to approve the "untimely demolition of the 4 largest housing developments during an unprecedented housing crisis in this city." (Quote on her blog came from here.) I urge you to watch the video in her post Public Housing Advocates Attacked part 4 (which is linked above) as well as check out the link to the video of the protesting outside of the court house.

Think New Orleans provides a round-up of some links to blogs covering the controversy here.

The Coalition to Stop Demolition (I may have the name wrong, it may be called Defend New Orleans Public Housing) provides a Fact v. Myths page and a Demolition Fact Sheet. The home page provides regular updates of the Coalition's work.

In its latest update, the coalition writes,

"The City Council approved demolition plans for the four major housing developments in late December. Hundreds of people were locked out of the meeting. About a dozen people were arrested for loudly demanding that the council let people in to the empty seats. Police used pepper spray and tasered several protestors. The Council urged HUD to develop one for one replacement of affordable housing and asked for quarterly reports.

The Mayor of New Orleans has promised that there will be no demolition at Lafitte or St. Bernard until HUD shows a full-funded plan for one for one replacement of affordable housing. He announced he would allow demolition to begin at B.W. Cooper and C.J. Peete as soon as he was provided with a Memorandum of Understanding between the HUD and the residents.

Demolition on St. Bernard and Lafitte has not started. Demolition has started on C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper"

Please check out their calls to action here. Their call for action includes urging U.S. Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs to finishing deliberating on Senate Bill 1668: Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007. The bill has to get through the committee before it can be voted on in Congress (and many bills never make it out of the various committees, so it's important to let them know which ones are a priority!). This form will allow you to contact the committee with a statement in support of SB 1668.

No comments: